September 17th 1621 - Bellarmin Robert
† in Rome
When Ignatius of Loyola died in the year 1556, Bellarmin was a boy at the age of fourteen. 'His mother Cinthia, a sister of Pope Marcellus II, was very pious. She got to know the Society of Jesus by Father Paschasius Broët, who because of illness went for a treatment to Montepulciano in the Toscana, Bellarmin's birthplace. She admired Father Broët and loved the Society of Jesus. She would have liked best to see all her five sons as Jesuits.' - So Bellarmin begins his short autobiography, which he wrote at the age of seventy.
At the age of eighteen Bellarmin became Jesuit. Already a short time before his ordination in Gent in 1570, the highly talented Robert got a lectureship for theology at the University of Louvain. In 1576 he was called at the Gregoriana in Rome. At the same time he had the office of spiritual director for the Scholastics. One of those for whom he cared was Aloisius Gonzaga. Bellarmin lectured controversial theology, a subject, which he had actually created yet. From 1586 to 1593 his lectures appeared in Rome in four large volumes. It is almost an irony of history that just Bellarmin, who so decidedly stood up for the pope and the church, had to see that one volume was put upon the index by Pope Sixtus V. A few months later that decision was cancelled by the new pope.
Also in the future Bellarmin was pressed by intrigues against him. As rector of the Gregoriana he was already replaced after two years, and removed from Rome. He was sent as provincial to Naples, although he had neither desire nor talent for the administrative functions associated with that office.
In January 1597, after scarcely three years, Pope Clemens VIII called him back to Rome, for a position of trust and counselling. He was appointed Cardinal two years later and soon afterwards Archbishop of Capua.
The most famous case he had to deal with was the first phase of Galilei's process. In 1616 he had to tell Galilei, the grand scholar, the pope's decision that he had to be silent about contestable questions. The representatives of the church erred at that time in the opinion that Galilei's theses would contradict the Holy Scriptures.
In 1597 Bellarmin published his 'Small Catechism', which was translated into all European and other languages. It has been reprinted four hundred times. It was, together with the 'Big Catechism' which was published in the next year, the obligatory textbook for Rome, and the whole Church State. Beside other writings appeared, one year before his death, his last work with the title 'About the art to die well'. This work is, as it were, his religious will.
On September 17th 1621 Bellarmin died in Rome, in the noviciate near S. Andrew, where he had retired. Pope Gregor XV and several cardinals stood at his deathbed. Six years after his death the beatification process was instituted. Still three hundred years passed up to the beatification. It took place only in the year 1923 by Pope Pius XI. The canonization happened seven years later, and in 1931 he was appointed Doctor of the Church.
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